Until recently in the United States, squash was played almost exclusively at prep schools, elite universities, and private member’s clubs. The sport has become more widely played over the past few decades, but also maintains strong ties to top-tier educational institutions including the Ivy League. There are more than 80 colleges in the US that offer study opportunities for squash scholar athletes.
Squash is uniquely effective as an after-school program ‘hook’ because it is:
- A physically and intellectually demanding sport
- Played by graduates and professionals
- Growing in the U.S., with 1+ million players (and 500 in Houston!)
- A game that places a high value on sportsmanship
- A proven pathway to prestigious high schools and universities
Squash and Fitness Programming
Mission Squash scholars spend a minimum of 2.5 hours per week participating in squash and fitness training after-school in their teams, with some scholars training up to 8 hours per week.
All sessions follow a structure where students complete one hour of academics before switching to their squash training for a further hour. In accordance with our Zero Zero and No Pass No Play policies, students with a “zero” in their grade book, or with a current grade average below 70 are required to demonstrate the necessary academic improvements before they are allowed on court to train!
Additional practices are available at weekends and during vacations for students requiring extra training time.
Scholarship squash sessions follow our in-house squash curriculum throughout the year. Coaching staff ensure that players are being taught the correct skills in a logical yet challenging structure. Players learn about the technical, tactical, mental and physical aspects of the game along with how to take care of their bodies off the court.
Players new to the program start with basic hand-eye coordination drills before progressing to basic hitting drills where they are taught the correct technique for a drive. From here, players learn all the different shots in the game including how to hit a serve, volley, drop shot, boast, lob and more.
Squash training takes place in team groups with a maximum of four students per court (the safe limit). Learning to train hard and support each other as a team is central to our coaching ethos.
Individual lessons can be earned by students who have earned enough Equipment Bucks – our internal currency – and are viewed as a benefit for students actively embodying our core values of Growth, Respect, Investment and Teamwork (GRIT).
While basic squash equipment is provided for use by all scholars, students are awarded their first racket for completing their first year of commitment to the program. Scholars also have the option of saving up their equipment bucks in order to buy shoes, clothing, their own goggles or a more advanced racket.
Physical Fitness Training
With squash being such a hard sport on the body, it is important to prepare the body for this type of activity. Therefore, most squash sessions include a physical fitness component. This ranges from interval training, strength endurance training, speed and agility training, plyometric training, core stability training and more.
Scholars learn to track their health outcomes by logging workouts in their scholarship binder, and are rewarded by leveling up on fitness tests.
Curriculum, Testing and Squash & Fitness Levels
Mission Squash has developed the first ever urban squash Squash and Fitness curriculum that is highly specific to the age group and demographic that we work with. This includes a full induction process, coaching curriculum, fitness testing protocol and system of squash and fitness ranks (levels) that keep scholars of all ability levels motivated to reach their potential.
At several points throughout the year, students are required to participate in testing which covers squash skills and fitness benchmarking. Scholars are highly incentivized to reach their squash and fitness goals, and equipment bucks are available for those students “leveling up” to the next rank.
Tactics and Mental Fitness
Match Play and the Mission Squash Ladder
Learning the individual skills necessary to play squash is one thing, but learning to “put it all together” and be a great, fair competitor is another: learning to win and lose.
Scholars are given as many opportunities as possible to compete both with their scholar peers and with junior squash players across the city, including in the new Houston Junior Squash League which Mission Squash helped develop.
We also operate an internal Scholarship Squash Ladder which follows a challenge format, allowing students the opportunity to move up the ladder by winning challenge matches. Scholars have an allocated time each month when ladder matches are played. This is also a great time to visit us during practice as matches can often be closely fought and show our Scholars competing at their best!
Tournaments and Travel
A major benefit of the Urban Squash network is that it provides extensive opportunities for national travel and competition for students at events like the Urban National Teams and Urban National Individual championships. In addition, there are a growing number of clubs and schools in Houston fielding competitive junior squash teams after the introduction by Mission Squash of the Houston Junior Squash League in 2016.
Later in life, being a squash player gives access to a deep world-wide network of like-minded individuals, providing instant connections and future friendships in most developed countries around the world.
Scholars gain access to some incredible opportunities to train with some of the best players in the world, who visit Mission Squash in order to work with our Scholars.
In 2016-17 alone, our students were able to train in Houston with:
- Egypt’s Karim Abdel Gawad (World Champion and World Number 1)
- Egypt’s “Black Falcon” Mazen Hesham (Highest World Rank 14)
- England’s James Willstrop (former World No. 1 and Commonwealth Games Gold Medalist)
- Botswana’s Alister Walker (Highest World Rank 12)
- Scotland’s Greg Lobban (Highest Rank 36)
- Australia’s Donna Urquhart (Highest World Rank 13)
- India’s Vikram Malhotra
- Pakistan’s Shahjahan Khan
Nutrition and Wellness
Being a healthy student-athlete starts with eating right. A key goal of our organization is to create habitual awareness of how the body responds to different foods, and to help students develop strategies for encouraging healthier eating during the school day and with their families at home.
Typical activities include nutrition and cooking workshops, food diaries and meal planning activities. These often take place in conjunction with parents and guardians.
Programming is planned jointly with our Nutrition partner, Memorial Hermann Ironman Sports Medicine Institute.
Additionally, from time to time students take part in athletic activities outside of squash like rock climbing, soccer or calisthenics, and learn about other aspects of mind and body wellness through workshops and trips.
We are assisted on court by a large number of dedicated squash volunteers, many of whom either played squash at college level or have been involved in squash or tennis communities for a number of years. If you are interested in volunteering with on court drills and fitness work, please check out our Volunteer page.